Discover This Must-See Fairytale Castle Found in Maine

Written by Mandy Trotti
Updated: September 22, 2023
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The must-see fairytale castle found in Maine is an enchanting sight that has intrigued visitors for centuries. It’s nestled into the coast, only half a mile north of Downtown Camden on Route 1, overlooking the peaceful Penobscot Bay. Keep reading to discover why this castle is listed as one of the most exciting places to stay in summer and what makes it so special.  

History of The Norumbega

The name Norumbega dates back to around 1524. However, the earliest record of the name appeared as “Aranbega” or “Oranbega,” in maps written by explorers searching for the mythical city in what is now the New England area. Descriptions of the area mentioned gold leaf and crystal towers. Today the descriptions match the view of Penobscot Bay, where we find the must-see fairytale castle found in Maine. 

Norumbega’s story starts in 1885 with Joseph Barker Stearns, a native Mainer and contributor to the modern fire alarm system. Stearns wanted to build a beautiful stone castle along the sea, choosing Camden, Maine, as the perfect spot. He started working immediately, adding revolutionary electric lights and steam heat, quickly completing it by 1887. Stearns called it “The Stone Castle by the Sea” but officially named it “Norumbega.”  

The Norumbega Inn, Camden, Maine

Joseph Barker Stearns built a beautiful stone castle in Camden, Maine.

©Bblond / CC BY-SA 4.0 – License

The Norumbega Myth

The myth surrounding the name Norumbega dates back to maps from the 1500s. In fact, one of the first records is from Giovanni da Verrazzano’s map of America from 1529. However, it was spelled “Oranbega,” deriving from an Algonquian language spoken by Natives in New England at the time. This legendary settlement bursting with gold is said to exist in New England but can’t be accurately pinpointed. 

The myth came to be after sailor David Ingram claimed to walk across it while exploring the interior North American continent in the 16th century. No one else came across the settlement, believing he had ventured to a Native territory and fabricated most of the story. However, the name remained on maps for many years. It’s possible Joseph Barker Stearns named his castle after the myth because it was, in a way, a legendary castle.    

The Norumbega Today

The must-see fairytale castle found in Maine was a private residence visited only by American Presidents and socialites for the next century. However, in 1984 Elise Griffin turned it into an inn. From then until May 2022, the property was purchased and resold to numerous people. Now, William Tims, a New York architect, and his partner Brett Haynie rent out eleven rooms of the enchanting castle to those interested in enjoying the beauty of Camden as Stearns had all those years ago. 

The stone mansion turned hotel was renovated and redesigned to honor the original architecture while bringing it to the stylish present, making it one of the most exciting places to stay in Maine’s midcoast region. Many of the historic landmark’s original elements remain, including the wooden millwork, inlaid wood flooring, a turret, and the large entry hall. But there are many riveting additions such as the marvel baths, solarium-turned bar, and restaurant headed by a distinguished local chef.     

Norumbega Inn, Camden, Maine. The Must-See Fairytale Castle Found in Maine.

The dining room in The Norumbega consisted of the original wood before its renovation in 2022.

©Bblond / CC BY-SA 4.0 – License

Visiting the Must-See Fairytale Castle Found in Maine

Unlike some fairytale castles across the country, the Norumbega isn’t open to tours. But visitors can spend a few nights in this must-see fairytale castle found in Maine, which is even better. Each luxurious guest room is unique, making guests at the boutique inn feel like royalty.

All the rooms are renovated but showcase the natural charm Joseph Barker Stearns fell in love with. Guests can stay in one of the rooms featuring a panoramic view of Penobscot Bay. Or stay in an enchanting suite that was once the library of Joseph Barker Stearns. Want to spend a romantic getaway sitting on a private terrace with a view of a perennial flower garden? The Norumbega is just the place. 

The Norumbega also hosts various events, from small, intimate gatherings to weddings. The Inn is also open year-round, a rarity for many of the region’s luxury hotels. 

Wildlife Around the Must-See Fairytale Castle Found in Maine

Butterfly sitting on a milkweed flower

Milkweed grows near some of the paths within the Camden Hills State Park in early summer, attracting monarch butterflies near The Norumbega Inn. 


Visitors interested in exploring the area around the must-see fairytale castle found in Maine are right by the water of Penobscot Bay. But they can also drive a few minutes down the road to Camden Hills State Park. The mountainous park offers a campground and trails that overlook Downtown Camden and Penobscot Bay. The park is also open year-round. 

Wildlife in the area includes animals on land and at sea. Some of the most popular land animals include deer, moose, bears, foxes, and mink. In more remote areas of the park, bobcats and bears roam through the wilderness. However, winter visitors don’t have to keep an eye out for bears because they are hibernating. Furthermore, common milkweed grows near some of the paths in early summer, attracting monarch butterflies to the area. 

As for sea animals in the area around The Norumbega, there are various types of whales, such as the humpback whale and the pilot whale. They are in the waters from mid-spring to mid-fall. But year-round visitors have the chance to spot dolphins farther from the shore. 

Birding is very common in Maine. The various terrain and elevations at Camden Hills State Park make it an ideal place for birders. Here, visitors can catch a glimpse of the wood thrush, wild turkeys, flickers, and woodcocks and may catch sight of a pheasant closer to the wooded and farmland areas farther away from The Norumbega.   

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Bblond / CC BY-SA 4.0 – License / Original

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About the Author

Mandy Trotti is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on dogs and travel. Mandy has been writing professionally for over two years and holds a Bachelor's Degree in English Literature from the University of South Florida, which she earned in 2022. A resident of Florida, Mandy enjoys going on walks with her beagle, visiting botanical gardens, and watching the sunset on the beach.

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